Film Review: Philomena


Philomena is a drama ably directed by Stephen Frears. What could have been a very melancholy tale is given some lightness without negating from the emotion at hand.

Government advisor Martin Sixsmith is looking to get back into writing after being fired from his role in the Labour party. He picks up the story of Philomena Lee, and her search for the son who has taken away from her decades before…

Based on the true story of Philomena Lee’s search and Martin Sixsmith’s book, Philomena is successful in highlighting a real injustice. It does this by focusing on the story of just one of the effected.

The narrative unfolds as it develops in Martin’s article. This framing of the narrative with how the story is panning out in its ‘human interest’ angle is a nice touch.

The main characters in Philomena are likeable. Martin and Philomena are opposable, but this makes them work as an unlikely duo. There are moments of heightened emotion, thanks to the good writing and direction. There is also a good deal of light humour. This gives the characters a three dimensional edge; showing a different side to them in spite of the serious story.

The exploration of religion and faith is a key theme in Philomena. This is explored through both the overall narrative and the personal persuasions of the protagonists. Frears offers some balance in his depiction of the subject of faith. Both Judi Dench and Steve Coogan offer fine performances.

What makes Philomena engaging is its developed characters and well-crafted story. The fact that it is a true story certainly gives the film an edge in terms of poignancy.

Philomena is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.